What is the difference between branding and marketing? Think about it this way. You are Company XYZ. You are a playful company because you specialise in scrap booking and crafts. Your logo is pink and black. Your short tag line, We do fun!, accompanies your logo in all your emails. What you look like, your logo and colours, and what you sound like, your playful and easy-going tag line; that is your brand. What are you marketing? Materials used for arts and crafts as well as fun get-togethers during the week and Saturdays where young and old can learn tips and tricks.

It is important to establish your brand, but that is not what you are marketing. It depends on the industry you are in, but people generally don’t need to know that Company XYZ has a special running at the moment. What they want to know about is the special itself. What matters is the cost, quality, delivery or venue and time – things that will impact their lives.

What is important in branding is consistency; always use the same logo, colours and tagline. What is important in marketing is connecting your preferred customer with the goods and services you are selling. Before you start marketing, it is important to know how to position yourself as a brand. That basically means you need to understand who you are as a company and what you look like to the outside world.

The trouble is that many entrepreneurs and small business owners can’t see the real unique aspect of their business because they are so preoccupied what they believe sets them apart from similar companies in their field.

One reason leading to this dilemma is the well-intentioned yet misguided input from supportive close friends and family. They have seen you struggle and know how excited you are about this product or service and will tell you what you want to hear. Objectivity is very important when seeking advice or feedback.

Take this case-study for example. An online toy store owner wanted to market a specific range of toys. Caroline* has already been in business for a couple of years, but since she has a day job, time is limited. A fellow entrepreneur referred her to someone who could help with her marketing. Caroline was open to ideas but also quite specific about which products she wanted to market.

The first problem identified was that she did not differentiate herself from the online crowd. Why should anyone order toys from her instead of more established online stores? What made her unique? The answer was something she had never thought of before – her day job. Caroline works as a pediatric speech therapist at a primary school and has expert knowledge on the developmental stages of children.

With this new insight, she changed her marketing strategy to revolve around the developmental toys she already had in stock. She also rewrote the About page on her website to include and in fact focus on the development of children and how certain toys help at certain stages of a child’s life. Her brand went from just another online store to a company with expert knowledge, a company who cares about your child’s development – a brand with personality.

Getting that objective overview of your company is crucial. You might be missing something obvious because you don’t see it as part of your business. Understanding your company and your identity as entrepreneur takes time, money and effort. It is the foundation of a successful business and should not be underestimated.

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